You don't have to be musical to help your child on their musical path. Here are a few simple things you can do.
1. LISTEN TO MUSIC AROUND YOUR KIDS
Play music while cooking, driving, relaxing at home etc. Try to make music a part of everyday life. You can play music every morning as your kids are waking up and having breakfast or at dinner time. Make listening to music a regular thing in your house.
Something we like to do is find playlists to match a mood. For example, in the morning we'll will put on a relaxing morning playlist, or a piano playlist to keep the mood calm when you and your children are focusing on a task. We may use the same type of thing in the evening or a fun “active” playlist if we are playing in the yard.
Choose what suits you and your family but there are so many ways to find music to play. You can use Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, Amazon Music, Apple Music or one of the other services that makes music convenient and cheap!
Connect your phone to a Bluetooth speaker or your home stereo system. I don’t suggest playing music directly from your phone as phone speakers don’t usually give the full impact of the music which is important when making music a part of your family’s life.
I admit, it can be hard to remember to play music in today's, fast paced world, but doing so will quickly become habit and will go a long way in establishing a relationship between your kids and music.
2. LISTEN TO A WIDE VARIETY OF MUSIC WITH YOUR KIDS
Children’s Music, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Classical, Country, Classic Rock, R&B, Acoustic, Musical Theater etc. can all be good choices. Let your kids help you decide what to play. If you don’t typically listen to a lot of music use playlists on your streaming service to help you choose.
There are some great selections and songs from artists like the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Jack Johnson, and tons more, that are great to listen to with kids. We'll be discussing these in a future blog post. Stay Tuned!
3. ENCOURAGE KIDS TO MOVE TO THE MUSIC
They can dance, wiggle, clap, jump, run etc. This gets them to connect with the music and feel it in a deeper way. Let them feel free and do what they want. Get silly, have fun and let go.
4. USE ACTIVE LISTENING WITH YOUR KIDS
Active Listening is another way to get children to connect to music and it’s simple. You don’t have to do this all the time but occasionally when listening to music with your child point out things you hear and ask them to do the same.
I truly believe this is a game changer. Kids will begin hearing music in a different way. They’ll start going a little bit below the surface of the music and will start understanding the language of music.
To do this you can look at music in three dimensions:
There are many more aspects to music but these three are easy to understand for kids and can be a gateway to understanding the language of music.
The first dimension of music is fast and slow. Try to notice the speed (tempo is the musical term for speed) of the music. Ask your kids if they think the music is fast or slow. Once in a while, remember to ask your children if the music is fast of slow.
Next is quiet and loud. You should be able to pick out loud or soft music OR loud or soft parts in songs. Ask your kids what they hear. Quiet or loud is called dynamics in music.
Last is high and low. Little things usually make high sounds like birds, small instruments like ukuleles or flutes. Big things usually make low sounds like bears growling or larger instruments like cellos or bass drums. This dimension is a little tougher for younger kids to hear but with a few tries they can pick this up. When you hear something in music that is clearly high or low point it out to your kids. Next time, ask them what they hear.
BONUS: If you want to add a few more aspects to “active music listening” try pointing out the feeling or emotion that the music or song conveys. This isn’t always straight forward but some music sounds really sad or really happy, grumpy or even scary. Ask your kids what emotion the music makes them feel.
BONUS 2: Instruments. There are a few instruments that you might be able to pick out when you listen to music, even if you aren’t a musician. Drums, ukuleles, pianos, acoustic or electric guitar are a few examples. If you hear any of these, or others, point them out.
These are some simple and powerful tools to get kids to connect with music. Once you help your child listen for these aspects or dimensions of music they will start doing it themselves. This is a deeper way of listening and it paves the way for children to be much more engaged when they listen to music.
"I truly believe this is a game changer. Kids will begin hearing music in a different way. They’ll start going a little bit below the surface of the music and will start understanding the language of music."
5. ENCOURAGE SINGING
Let’s face it some kids are really good singers, others…well, maybe they're drummers. I have two kids, one carries a tune very well the other doesn’t, but that’s perfectly ok. What I see in my kids, and the kids I teach, is that kids LOVE to sing.
Singing is such an innate musical gift we all have and encouraging singing is a gateway to a love of music. This is also why repeating songs is important. They will become familiar with the songs and be able sing with them.
Some songs have simpler melodies that are easy to sing along with (think “Twinkle, Twinkle" and the A,B,C song (which are the same tune btw)), others can be trickier to sing (think "Blackbird" by the Beatles).
Both are great, just let the child connect to singing in their own way. The voice is an instrument we all have (some people may have a more finely tuned instrument), so let children use it as much as possible.
6. MAKE INSTRUMENTS TOGETHER AT HOME
There are tons of resources online. Simply search “make musical instruments at home for kids” and you’ll see what I mean. By doing this they begin to understand the parts of instruments and how they work. This can get them to be more interested in playing instruments as they grow.
Using things most of us have like cereal boxes, string, yarn, pots and pans, oatmeal tubs, spoons, and spatulas, you can make music. It doesn’t have to be pricey but it can be fun. If you’re not crafty that’s ok, check out number 7 below.
7. GET INSTRUMENTS FOR YOUR KIDS TO PLAY AT HOME
Encourage your child to play instruments along with the music they hear. Regardless of how “good” kids sound when they play. Kids feel like rock stars just by playing an instrument along with music. The instruments don’t have to be expensive either.
You can find quality instruments at very reasonable prices. A nice variety is the absolute best. One guitar, one ukulele, a drum with sticks, a hand drum, a keyboard (or piano if there’s one in the house), and some shakers are a great start.
You can find many child friendly instruments on Amazon.com. Here are some instruments that I think are great for kids and can be purchased on Amazon we've used all of these with our students and find them to be very good for the price and for young kids.
1. Casio SA-46. This is a quality keyboard that is small and great for kids. It's a starter instrument, not necessarily one that will work for advanced piano lessons but it's high quality, especially for the price. (click here to buy on Amazon)
2. Casio SA-76. This is the same as the SA-46 except it's a little bit bigger. (click here to buy on Amazon)
3. Yamaha P-45. This is an AMAZING digital piano. It has a full sized keyboard, has weighted keys and it sounds and plays great! It's not cheap, but if you're ready to commit to learning the piano, this is a great instrument to have. (click here to buy on Amazon)
1. Kala Soprano Ukulele: This is a great Uke for kids. It's made of Mohogony which is a great sounding wood, it's durable, playable and is from a quality brand name. (click here to buy on Amazon)
1. Full drum set, sized for kids. Mendini 3 Piece Junior Drum Set: (click here to buy on Amazon) You can use this as a complete drum set or take of one drum so your kids can play a drum on the floor. A little bit of taped on foam on the edge of the drum or tape on the drumhead (the part that gets struck by the sticks) can quiet the drum down quite a bit. But, drums will never be the quietest of instruments so you know what you’re getting into when you buy drums for your little one. I do feel that drums are a great starter instrument for kids however, as they usually really enjoy hitting things and can easily play drums and feel musical.
2. A practice pad. It's quieter than a real drum (not silent though), and it feels like a drum when it's struck with sticks. Remo Practice Pad: (click here to buy on Amazon)
3. If your child will be playing drums they'll need sticks. Drum sticks come in a lot of sizes. I recommend size 7A for smaller and younger kids and size 5A for bigger, older children. (click here to buy 7A drum sticks on Amazon) OR (click here to buy 5A drum sticks on Amazon).
8. GUIDE YOUR CHILDREN WITH THE INSTRUMENTS
You don’t have to be a musician at all. Simply get them to hold the guitar correctly, hold the drum sticks properly etc. If you need a little help with this watch a quick YouTube video for help or check out our online music program that has instrument lessons for ukulele, piano and drums. Check out www.MyMusicWorkshop.com to try it out for free!
9. WATCH LIVE MUSIC BEING PERFORMED
There are a lot of available choices. Local colleges and high schools will usually offer live performances from some of their bands, coffee shops may have musicians playing on certain nights, local parks will offer chances to see live performances. Big cities have many opportunities for this while smaller towns may not have as much.
Regardless of where you live there is likely a way to see someone performing music live. If there aren’t many live performances near you simply watch live music being played on YouTube. You can find a clip of your child’s favorite artist, an orchestra, a famous choir, or music from around the world. There are so many options. If no live music is available find some on YouTube!
10. FIND A GREAT MUSIC CLASS
There are some really great music programs for kids out there. Search your area to find out what’s available. Your children can also start learning music from the convenience of home with My Music Workshop, our online music education program. It's built to get kids excited about learning music and to keep them coming back for more! Try it for free below!
11. READ BOOKS ABOUT MUSIC
When it's bed time, story time or reading time with your kids, you can incorporate children's books related to music. There are great picture books as well as educational books that keep music in your child's awareness even when they aren't listening to music. Many are available on Amazon or at your local bookstore.
About the Author:
Elias Berlinger is a lifelong musician and has spent his entire career as a music teacher for children. He and his wife Lianna have two young children Jay and Lyra. The couple founded My Music Workshop in 2009 with the goal of bringing quality music education to as many children as possible. Today their program has reached thousands of students through their classes, franchise locations and online program. Elias is the primary curriculum writer and has written five curriculum books with stories, activities and music covering a range of musical topics for kids including reading music. He grew up with music in his household with a father who played guitar and always played music at home. He is still active musically playing his favorite instrument, the drums, with bands and other performers. He has performed live for many years across the country. His two great joys are performing and teaching music. You can visit My Music Workshop's Online Music Program at www.MyMusicWorkshop.com.